8 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About 'Scary' Chemicals

You could go "chemical free", but you wouldn't survive for very long.

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Chemicals. The word sounds a little bit scary, doesn’t it? For some it probably conjures up memories of school, and that time little Joey heated something up to “see what would happen” and you all had to evacuate the building. Which was actually good fun – what’s not to love about an unplanned fire drill during lesson time?

But for others the word has more worrying associations. What about all those lists of additives in foods, for starters? You know, the stuff that makes it all processed and bad for us. Don’t we need to get rid of all of that? And shouldn't we be buying organic food, so we can avoid all the nasty pesticides?

What about cosmetics and toiletries? Isn't it much better to buy the 'natural', 'chemical-free' options, even if they are much more expensive? The ones made with plant extracts and edible ingredients have got to be safer, haven’t they? You can just tell that some of this stuff is going to be bad from you from the hard-to-pronounce chemical names, can’t you?

If you’ve ever thought any of these things, read on. It might just save you some label gazing, and it will almost certainly save you some money!

8. It’s Possible To Have “Chemical Free”

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Water Wipes

Nope. You just can’t. Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, is made up of chemicals. One dictionary definition of the word chemical is “any basic substance that is used in or produced by a reaction involving changes to atoms or molecules”. That essentially covers everything, including boring, everyday things like water, oxygen and nitrogen.

In fact, your body is one big soup of chemical reactions, from the glucose that your cells use to generate energy, to the haemoglobin that allows oxygen to get around your body, to the DNA in every single cell.

Unless you’re some sort of weird pure energy life form living in the deepest reaches of outer space (or possibly inside the Large Hadron Collider) you spend all day touching, eating and breathing chemicals. Like the song says, let it go.

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Kat Day is a science blogger, writer and teacher living in Oxfordshire in the U.K. Her award-winning blog is called The Chronicle Flask, and she has also written articles for Sense About Science, Things We Don't Know and Nature Chemistry. When she's not writing or teaching she is usually trying to keep on top of important parenting skills such as negotiation, conflict resolution and always having the right coloured cup.